Date: 2nd November 2008 at 5:08pm
Written by:

Never before has the phrase ‘not at the races’ ever been more appropriate in relation to our football team.

‘It’s men against boys’ said the completely apathetic gentlemen sitting behind me in the Wheatfield Stand on the half-hour mark. At that moment I had his words spelled out in my head as ‘men against Bhoys’ as a direct nod to the nickname of our opponents today, but in reality for us Hearts supporters, the slightly clumsy looking ‘mhen against boys’ would really have been more apt.

Seriously, that was as big a doing as I’ve seen Hearts getting in a LONG time, probably even before Vladimir Romanov came to the club in actual fact. It may only have ended up 2-0, but that’s merely a statistic – the fact is that Hearts were bossed out of the game completely during the time that really counted, and in all areas they were found wanting in a big way.

The most disappointing aspect for me is that although we can accept that Celtic are technically superior due to the money they’ve had to invest in their squad, Hearts also seemed to be well short of the required level of fitness and physical prowess in comparison to their opponents. How many times did we see a Hearts player simply bouncing off his hoops-clad counterpart? And how many times did one of our players concede literally yards to an opponent due to a significant difference in physical fitness and speed? Quite a lot would have to be the truthful response to both questions, and this is surely unacceptable – if anything teams who are technically inferior should be focusing MORE on this side of the game, as it’s the one area that if applied correctly can give them a chance, but the whole Hearts team looked worryingly laboured this afternoon, and that’s a real issue for Csaba and co.

I suppose we really should have seen this coming, as although Hearts had played well in spells in their last two matches, the last time that they came up against a side who were half-decent at pressing the game and making their physical presence felt, they were similarly put away. That was when Kilmarnock were in town, and although Jim Jefferies’ side don’t have the individually talented footballers that Gordon Strachan has at his disposal, the principals of their gameplan were very much the same – and this has to be THE main area of focus for Csaba Laszlo and co if they want to turn Hearts back into a serious force again.

Having said all this, we should acknowledge that things got off the worst possible start for a side looking to contain one of the Old Firm sides. Generally speaking it’s important to start these matches well, but Celtic came racing out of the blocks and were ahead within seven minutes.

The danger looked to have been cleared when home ‘keeper Janos Balogh came out to the penalty spot to decisively punch clear a cross from the right wing, but when the ball dropped to Shaun Maloney fully 35 yards from goal, the little midfielder cracked a sweet first-time half-volley back over the pack of players in the penalty area, including the forlorn figure of Balogh, and straight into the net. A great opportunist strike by Maloney, but although his initial punch was good, perhaps question marks could be placed over Balogh for the time it took for him to get to his feet – if he’d reacted quicker then the resultant shot really would have been a routine save for him.

From this point on it was always going to be difficult for Hearts, and if truth be told they struggled to even string two passes together let alone create chances, such was the effectiveness of the pressing game being employed by their opponents.

The only real talking point for Hearts in an attacking sense came when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Celtic penalty area with the score still at 1-0. Two things annoyed me about this incident: firstly, by the time Bruno Aguiar’s foot made contact with ball, the Celtic wall were practically right in his face around three or four yards from the ball; secondly, when the ball actually got past a couple of them, it was then clearly handled inside the area by one of the defenders (couldn’t make out who the player was), who looked as though he almost caught the thing! It was another of those bottling situations that you get in matches against the Old Firm, and perhaps if the penalty had been awarded then things could have turned out differently, even if I do doubt that very much given the gulf in class between the sides today.

After that the writing was on the wall and before long it was 2-0. A dangerous Hartley corner was flicked on by McDonald inside the six yard area and with Balogh flapping all over the place, Gary Caldwell was somehow allowed to bundle the ball over the line. Exceptionally poor defending from Hearts, and our moods weren’t improved much with Caldwell’s rather inciteful celebrations! As usual though, nothing was done about the latter.

Celtic then appeared to relax a little and Hearts had slightly more possession of the ball, but to be honest they did very little with it, and with both wingers Cesnauskis and Driver having to track back very deep, any time they did get the ball in good positions the lack of support for lone striker Christian Nade dictated that most Hearts attacks were over before they began, as it simply took too long for any assistance to arrive.

Half time 0-2.

If the match wasn’t already over as a contest, it most certainly was just five minutes into the half when Marius Zaliukas was red-carded for a ‘last man’ tackle on Scott McDonald. I’d need to see the incident again and I thought the Celtic player looked suspiciously offside, but once he was goal-side of Zaliukas he looked to be clearly tugged back by the defender, and the referee was left with little option but to send him off given his central position. The only other niggle of doubt I’d have here was whether or not the challenge was actually inside the penalty area though – Thompson ruled that it was and awarded the spot-kick of course, but it did look like a pretty close call. Another one for the TV cameras to prove one way or the other I’d say.

Former Jambo Paul Hartley, such an expert from the penalty spot during his time with Hearts, then proceeded to take one of the worst penalties I’ve seen in quite a while when he hit his shot wide of Balogh’s right hand post. This prompted the biggest cheer of the afternoon from the home support, with the subsequently ironic chant of ‘one Paul Hartley’ giving us at least something to smile about for our troubles!

By this stage the match was finished, despite the fact that there was more than half an hour of play left. Celtic had clearly taken their foot off the gas knowing that their job had been done, and although Hearts did play better in that time, they were still unable to seriously threaten Artur Boruc or his central defenders.

The only Hearts players that I thought were really doing anything productive at all out there in an attacking sense were Mikoliunas, who had come on late in the first half for the totally ineffectual Cesnauskis, and Christian Nade who was once again given the thankless task of playing as the lone striker.

That view was clearly shared by the majority of the stadium if the reaction to the news of Nade’s substitution was anything to go by. Seriously, this had shades of Stevie Frail written all over it – we’re 2-0 down in desperate search of inspiration and who does Csaba take off to make way for Jamie Mole? Nade – the only striker we have on the park and the only guy in the final third looking capable of doing anything. A bizarre decision to the say the least, and a bit of an insult to the fans in all honesty.

The final straw came for me when Bruno Aguiar was then taken off with ten minutes to go. Yes Bruno is probably due a rest given his schedule since returning from injury, but Michael Stewart was clearly the man who needed to come off – the guy was breathing out of his backside after half an hour, yet managed to outlast both Nade and Aguiar, both of whom were still offering infinitely more to the cause when they were taken off than Stewart did at any point this afternoon. I’ll certainly be all ears when Csaba explains these decisions to the press tomorrow.

So….if we needed a true wake-up call to let us know exactly how far short of the required standard that this Hearts team currently are, then we most certainly don’t now. That was a real lesson for our team today, and I seriously do hope that they can be quick learners, as that’s twice now that teams have come to our ground and bullied us off the field with pretty minimal fuss.

‘Could do better’? Oh yes…..









Player Ratings

Balogh 4
In all honesty for all Celtic’s superiority he was rarely tested, but for me should have done better for the second goal and did look a little slow to react at the first.

Jonsson 4
Given a really tough time out there by players who were technically and physically stronger. He even bounced off Maloney a couple of times for goodness sake!

Wallace 5
Difficult afternoon too, although to be fair did have a couple of decent bursts forward in support of Driver. Still think if he’s got to get a game, it should be in midfield and not at full-back.

Berra 5
Did reasonably well considering the doing that Hearts were getting. Helpded to keep McDonald reasonably quiet, but found the other lad Sheridan a handful.

Zaliukas 3
Had his worst game of the season for me. Found Sheridan a real handful and at times looked really laboured. Sent off after 50 minutes after getting on the wrong side of McDonald.

Karipidis 4
We praised him earlier in the week, but he was completely out-muscled and overrun today. Better when moved into defence, which is his best position, but by that time Celtic were barely interested.

Cesnauskis 2
A waste of a jersey. Subbed before half-time.

Aguiar 5
Struggled to get into the game, although to be fair did manage to win a few free-kicks in dangerous areas. Generally the midfield were completely overrun though, which made opportunities for him to get into the game very few and far between.

Stewart 2
Had a real off-day. Looked as though he’d been in the pub until the early hours!

Driver 5
Huffed and puffed and probably would have been dangerous had he ever gotten the ball in dangerous areas, but due to Celtic’s pressing game he spent most of his time defending.

Nade 6
Did well considering the lack of service he received, and was very unfortunatel to be substituted.

Mikoliunas 6
Showed the sort of attitude and application that so many others around him were lacking. Got in behind the full-back a couple of times and generally did pretty well.

Mole 3
Offered very little, although playing him on his own up front only continues to make the guy look worse than he really is in my opinion.
No idea – left as soon as he was brought on!

 

20 Replies to “Hearts Well Beaten By Celtic”

  • A thoroughly gutless all round performance by Hearts today with hardly a redeeming feature. However in his interview with Radio Scotland Laszlo says that his team showed ?character? He also rambles on in his own unique style about why he replaced Nade with Mole (rather than playing with 2 strikers) ? which in summary seems to be because Mole can run and he didn?t want to lose 5 goals. The link for the interview is at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7705131.stm

  • i’m a tim and to be fair, there was no way for hearts to defend against what was a flukey first goal (goalie was unsighted by a ruck of players in front of him and maloney just hit it sweet but probably couldn’t do the same nine times out of ten) and the second goal should have been chalked off if (as i’m always saying) we had video evidence (clear, if indeliberate, handball). Of course there was the penalty, so yes, celtic would have won anyway but it was scrappy and not a humping. We had to fight hard as we always do when we go to Tynecastle. Csaba Laszlo seems like a gent and a decent manager but it’s hard for other teams in the league to compete with the likes of Celtic/Rangers just like it’s hard for us to compete with the likes of the teams in the Champs League and that comes down purely to finances and strength in depth.

  • the first goal was sweatly struck and you’ll find tht the rule states your hand has to move towards the ball so i think it was a legit goal

  • I had a bad feeling about it and whilst I waited for my other half finishing her shopping I managed to catch the first 20 minutes on the radio. Sounded like a shambles to me… I still don’t understand the mass optimism surrounding the team just now. We don’t have a proven striker and our defence is a Jekyll and Hyde act. I honestly believe mid table mediocrity would be a good thing and hope we don’t end up making a mess of it like last year. I’m not against Csaba I just don’t think the team is good enough. Without a goalscorer we will struggle and with new signings Obua and Tullberg having injuries or recurrences already I can’t help but think that good money is being thrown away again. Why is it a slight knock takes 3 or more months to recover from at Tynecastle? Ultimately though these two players, no matter how good they end up playing, can’t turn around the rot. I hope Csaba is serious about the clear out and Romanov stands by him. My big concern is where will the money for the clear out and rebuilding come from?

  • From what I saw on TV, your assessment of the game and players is spot on, Mr H. Although … I didn’t see much wrong with Balogh’s punch and reaction at Maloney’s goal – it was an unusually accurate volley, and there looked to be several players blocking Balogh’s view. Caldwell handled the ball (similar to Barry Ferguson last season) before knocking it over the line. Technically, Zaliukas fouled McDonald outside the box. But despite all these “hard luck stories”, we were never at the races. I can understand why Csaba might want to crowd the midfield against Celtic and play only 1 striker … but if he continues to do it against St Mirren, Hamilton, Inverness etc in the coming weeks, then our Csaba is going to lose the trust and confidence of many fans.

  • No arguements here Steve Bhoy, we are mince just now and I have no idea where the optimism is coming from that makes most fans think Hearts are going to be challenging for Europe this year…

  • I know Specs Haver touched on it there but I am wondering why nobody else has noticed. I was watching the game live on the TV, I had some mates over and I wasn’t really paying attention when the penalty was given. All I seen was Hartley stand up to take it and subsequently miss. But having seen the replay, I can’t believe nobody in the commentary mentioned this. I think McDonald was fouled a good distance outside the box. When I say ?a good distance?, I don’t mean 10 yards from the 18, I mean it wasn?t quite a marginal call either.
    I’d say he (SMcD) was a good yard outside the box when he was pulled back but his momentum took him into the box. It wasn’t a penalty, it should have been a free kick, but I think either way a sending off was appropriate.
    Acousta, I agree with the Caldwell handball, it shouldn’t have been a goal, I know what your saying Steve, that, he didn’t intentionally put his hand there to stop it but, he did get assistance from his hand, had his hand not been there it would have gone out of play so I think it should have been disallowed. I think Ferguson?s handball last year was more blatant, but then again who was the ref the day? Mister McCurry? Did you honestly expect to get anything lol?
    I don’t think the Maloney goal was a fluke, I think it was a good finish. I think we deserved to win but I?m not sure we battered you guys as much as you are making out. Boruc didn?t have any saves to make, but then again your own keeper had very little to do also. Was just one of those games?

  • i think mcdonald was ouside the box as well mate but thts football and its really the linesmans job to help the ref there

  • I’d agree guys and these are the things that do tend to go against us when we play Celtic and Rangers – very often we will complain like spoilt brats as you all know very well, but this time I think we acknowledge that Celtic could have gone up a gear at any time and still won easily. I also thought McDonald might have been offside before the foul by Zaliukas incidentally…

  • Well Dalien i have to say that I thought about your shall we say pessimistic or maybee realistic 🙂 stance when watching the game yesterday. Although, the league being particularly tight this year gives me some kind of hope (always the optimist!). Yesterday?s performance was dire and to say the least, Mr H your account was spot on! Stewart’s performance was unacceptable he looked like he didn’t want to be there (he is turning out to be a fair weather player!) and paled in comparison to Miko who kept on working even when he must have realised that he was the only interested. All I can hope for is that Kinsgton and Obua’s recoveries can change things around, but I am feeling a bit hopeless with the current system of having one man upfront. I would like to see some flexibility in tactics; Csaba can’t seriously believe that you use the same tactics independent of who you play?
    Mole upfront by himself is close to ridiculous, as he is starting to look more and more dessolute as the season goes on (Elliot in the making!?). Don’t understand Lazlo taking Nade off either as he at least posed some kind of threat. Shambolic and deeply worrying?.

  • I think the issue is here you have good and bad fans supporting every team. Every week I hear this being brought up and think surely if peoploe stopped banging on saying “Their fans r wurse than oors!” it would prevent half the nonsense we have to put up with on these boards. Can’t we all understand there are good and bad people in all walks of life?

  • Dalien – good call! There seems to be a train of thought that just because the opposing fans indulge in some sort of unacceptable behaviour this then somehow exempts others from sorting their own house. Each club should be leading the way in sorting themselves out and assisting other clubs where necessary.

  • I thought I’d wait until seeing Sportscene before giving my tuppenceworth on the game. In my opinion we simply cannot blame anyone (apart from ourselves) and were beaten by a superior team. 1st goal – Balogh did what he should but Maloney scored, quite frankly, an absolute peach. 2nd goal – I initially thought Balogh flapped but he made a good save. The ball hit off Caldwell but he didn’t do it deliberately in my opinion and I understand handball to be if the player seeks to gain an advantage (but I could be wrong). We were out muscled in midfield and found wanting by a team that were just going through the motions after 2-0 – all a bit pathetic really. A pal of mine is convinced that Hartley deliberately missed the penalty to spare our blushes – not sure on that one!

  • Nice comments there Dalien – agree 100%. I actually did suggest it was a sympathy vote from Hartley at the game too – it clearly wasn’t of course, but how good was he from the spot when he was at Hearts? That much be the first pen he’s ever missed at Tynie.

  • 16 out of 16 he scored for Hearts – a stick on for a goal from the penalty spot. Nice of him to miss this time, but as mentioned, it didn’t really matter in the end. The biggest plus for Hearts may actually have been Zaliukas being sent off for the challenge…

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